Festive season planning 101: Travelling with pets

2016-11-30 15:06 - Louzel Lombard Steyn
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Cape Town - The South African holiday season is creeping closer, and as humans get excited for long walks on the beach and spending time with family, pets start to get nervous about whether or not they'll be able to join their humans on holiday. 

If the idea of letting your pets stay behind for the holiday season makes your heart ache, you'll be happy to know there are a handful of South Africa's airlines that offer easy options for your furry friends to travel with you. 

In October this year, South African Airways Cargo, the air-freight division of South African Airways, also introduced its new Pet Lounge facility for domestic pets at Cargo OR Tambo International Terminal. 

The lounge is specially designed for the pets’ comfort and safety, ensuring they experience a stress-free environment during their journey. 

In addition, the facility also minimises any environmental factors that are likely to cause distress.

SAA Cargo's Pet Lounge is manned by a specialised team who provides handling and co-ordination services, making sure every travelling pet enjoys the comfort and a hygienic environment while waiting to be escorted on board their flight. 

(Photo: Supplied)

The Pet Lounge at OR Tambo might be a big step up for SA pet travel, but it's still only a ripple in the pond in relation to global pet travel. 

In New York City at JFK International Airport, the world's first air terminal for animals is currently nearing the end of construction.  

The ARK at JFK, its name inspired by Noah's biblical vessel, will more than measure up to terminals for humans: Horses and cows will occupy sleek, climate-controlled stalls with showers, and dogs will lounge in hotel suites featuring flat-screen TVs. A special space for penguins will allow them mating privacy.

The R595 million, 16 500-square-meter shelter and quarantine facility will take in every kind of animal imaginable — even an occasional sloth or aardvark. From The ARK, they'll head to barns, cages, racetracks, shows and competition venues in the United States and abroad.

SEE: NYC's Kennedy airport building luxury animal terminal

If your animal cargo is a little smaller than a horse or a aardvark, however, SA's SAA and Mango airlines are the best local travel option for domestic pets. 

Low-cost carrier Mango airlines transport domestic pets only - this includes dogs, cats and small domestic birds. All the pets flying with Mango are checked in as cargo and fly in a pressurised compartment in the belly of the aircraft. 

As of 4 May 2015, kulula.com does not accept domestic pets and live animals at all their check-in counters. They do allow service dogs - which are allowed to be checked-in as well as in the cabin.

For the complete guide to travelling with pets domestically, check out: What you need to know about planning a flight with your cat or dog in SA

Important flying factors to note for your pet 

Weather conditions are very important when flying domestically and internationally

Airlines reserve the right to refuse to board your pet as cargo or checked baggage when runway temperatures are above 29C or if it is below 7C at the time of departure. 

In the event of this occurring, but you believe your animal is built to withstand colder temperatures, like a husky, an eskimo dog or an anatolian shepherd - you will need to present an Acclimation Certificate. 

Depending on the temperament of your animal, do not heavily sedate or tranquilise your pet. Pets generally travel well and are required to be alert. 

Make sure there is a familiar item in their travel kennel to help them settle. Thing's like their blankets, towels or an item of your clothing will help them settle. 

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